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Global Insights: Parsing China's Defense White Paper

Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

The Chinese government recently released a white paper on national defense, continuing its trend of publishing documents that provide additional details about the evolving nature of Beijing's defense programs as well as their underlying justifications. Nonetheless, the information still pales in comparison to that made available by the U.S. Department of Defense on the Internet. Except for a few classified "black programs," the department gives independent researchers (and foreign governments) substantial information about the characteristics of current and planned defense policy and weapons programs.

"China's National Defense in 2008" contains the usual stock phrases found in the other security white papers that have appeared periodically since 1995, designed to reassure readers about China's peaceful rise. The paper stresses that, despite China's growing economic and military capabilities, "China will never seek hegemony or engage in military expansion now or in the future, no matter how developed it becomes." Instead, Beijing "will persist in pursuing the new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, and advocating the settlement of international disputes and hot-spot issues by peaceful means." Notwithstanding its military buildup, "China pursues a national defense policy which is purely defensive in nature." ...

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